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October 4, 2011

Jim Leyland


Q. Hi, Jim. We've seen you show a lot of confidence in Don Kelly this year in a lot of different ways. Can you talk about the confidence you have in hitting him sixth in a playoff game.
JIM LEYLAND: I was thinking the way the lineup made out tonight, that's what we thought would be a good spot for him. We tried to mix a little more speed in that spot for tonight. That's pretty much why he's there.
We feel confident he can get a hit, even extra base hit. And also go first to third, possibly steal a base. We thought it was a pretty good spot for him.

Q. Jim, is Valverde available tonight?
JIM LEYLAND: Yes, he is.

Q. Did you hesitate at all with that?
JIM LEYLAND: He's available.

Q. Jim, Detroit fans have had their fair share of heart palpitations over the last couple of weeks with the Lions and maybe a little bit last night with Jose being in the game. Is your confidence still the same with him or do you get those nerves a little bit?
JIM LEYLAND: Well, if you watched our games all year, the heart has been fluttering all year quite a bit, not just last night. He has some clean innings now and then, and every now and then he keeps you on the edge of your seat. So far it's worked out pretty good.

Q. Just to sort of follow up on what she asked, I know you reached out to Jim Schwartz recently and you've been at a Michigan football game last month. Do you have a sense of the level of excitement in this area right now sports-wise?
JIM LEYLAND: We're all allies. That's the way I look at it. We're pulling for one another. Good atmosphere for the city. Makes people forget about their troubles with good times with sports. If you can make somebody happy, that's what the song says, make somebody happy. We're trying to make somebody happy. I listened to it on the way to the park today. I have a tape in my car.

Q. Jim, obviously you want to win. There's no question about that.
JIM LEYLAND: You're right (laughter).

Q. To do it tonight --
JIM LEYLAND: That's why we play.

Q. But to do it tonight, not have to go back to New York --
JIM LEYLAND: I'm not going to put that pressure on anybody. We have to win another game, whether it's here or New York, whatever happens. Everybody acts like all of a sudden this opponent isn't real good. This is one of the great teams in all of baseball. It's not easy to beat this team. I'm not going to put a lot of emphasis -- sure, we want to win it tonight. You know, would it be a perfect scenario to win in front of your home crowd? Would it be great? Would it be the gingerbread and all that? It would be beautiful. I'm not going to say we have to win this game or the series is over. We're going to play the game tonight and try to win it. The Yankees are going to play it and they're gonna try to win it.
If they win, then we go there and they'll feel real good because it's in front of their fans. We gotta win one, they gotta win two.

Q. Teixeira and A-Rod struggled. Any concern at all they break out potentially?
JIM LEYLAND: They play for the Yankees. I don't want to be talking about somebody else's players. I'll talk about mine. They make you nervous every time they come up. They're capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark, any place in the ballpark. They're great players. We have the utmost respect for them.
We're concerned about the whole lineup. It's so deep, that you have speed at top, speed at the bottom, switch-hitters, power in between. You have talent all over the place. It's a great lineup.
We're concerned about that all the time. All of them. Not just one or two of them.

Q. Jim, how concerned were you when Alex kind of stepped funny there, tweaked his knee last night? Could you talk about -- you said it before, the physical wear and tear he's taken over the course of this season catching, and just the foul tips and everything.
JIM LEYLAND: These guys -- Alex is a real tough kid. At this time of the year, unless you just can't go out there, you get out there. You're always worried about your players, whether it's the first day or the fourth game of a playoff, whatever. You're always worried about your players' health. That's just the way it goes. If you watched the game today, Napoli got run over at home plate which could have been a disastrous play. A real bad collision. That's what we do -- that's not what I do, but it's what my catcher does.

Q. Everybody seems to talk about the chaos with Valverde, but he seems to thrive from it. I wonder, can you tell us what you think really makes him tick.
JIM LEYLAND: I think he's just a big, fun-loving guy that's very serious when he gets on the mound. He knows what he has to do. He's very smart. He knows what to do with the baseball. He's pretty good at staying out of the middle of the plate.
And I don't think there was any chaos. That's blown over. I saw comments by Joe Girardi, which I really respected. If you read my comments -- that stuff is high school stuff. We're talking about the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers. We're not talking about some pep rally in Maumee and Perrysburg (laughter).

Q. Seems like a lot of media may be underestimating A.J. Burnett a little bit. Can you talk about what he brings to the table.
JIM LEYLAND: I'm not underestimating him a bit. He's got great stuff. A.J. Burnett is capable of going out and throwing a two-hitter tonight. I know that. He has great stuff. You know the scenario is -- this is a good situation for A.J., I think, on this stage tonight. People are hot and cold about A.J. and everything. Not us. We know what a great talent he is. If he gets it going, he can wipe you out.
We're very concerned about it. But that's the way it is. I mean, you're going to see a good pitcher in the playoffs and you're going to see a guy tonight with electric stuff, that if he has his command going and everything, we're going to have to work our fannies off.
And the key to tonight's game is gonna be not A.J. Burnett, it's going to be Rick Porcello, in my opinion. Rick Porcello has to give us a chance to win the game, because if A.J., you know, cranks one up that's really good, you're going to have to keep that other team down to have a chance to win the game. We're aware of that. He's a tremendous talent.

Q. Jim, when you guys are facing a game like this, elimination possibility, that kind of thing, you can take them down here, do you tend to say something to them? Are you one for speeches or do you let them do their job and go about their business?
JIM LEYLAND: I hope they know that we only got to win one to win this thing. No, I'm not one, "win one for the skipper," and all that stuff. No. That doesn't go in this business.
You know, I try to stay positive around the batting cage, talk to the guys when I walk around the outfield, you know, about a lot of different topics. Pretty much stay normal. Obviously we all know what's at stake tonight if we can pull this off, and what a nice moment this would be for the city. But, no, I don't really give any "we gotta win this game."
I never talk to my team about winning, to be honest with you. I talk about preparing to win. I don't talk about we have to win, we have to win. I say no, we have to prepare. If we prepare, we give it our best shot. Whatever happens happens.

Q. We talked with you a little bit during September about Inge, things he was doing differently after that trip down to Toledo. You've got a little more perspective on that now, I think even through this series. He hit .320 last month, he's .500 this series. What has he done differently other than cleared his head as far as you're concerned?
JIM LEYLAND: I think he quit putting pressure on himself. To be honest with you, I think he realized it's just a game. It is what it is. And I think he's having more fun. I think he's turned it into more of a fun thing than a job thing all of a sudden. And I just think -- I don't even know that -- he might be saying, I played a long time, I might be getting close, I don't know how many more years I can play. I'm going to enjoy this. I think that's what he's doing. I think it's helped him a lot.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in.
JIM LEYLAND: Sure. You're welcome.

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